Christ Church Cemetery

Major Samuel Cooper: a Boston Tea Party Participant and Revolutionary War Hero

Buried in Alexandria’s Christ Church Cemetery is Major Samuel Cooper. He lived from June 13, 1757, to August 19, 1840. When he was 16 years old, he participated in the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, as a member of the Sons of Liberty. During the event, they threw over 340 tea chests (92,000 pounds) from three ships, namely the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver, onto the docks or into the Boston Harbor. Cooper is one of the four people known to have written about that night.

Paul Revere was also among those who took part (born on January 1, 1735, and passed away on May 10, 1818). Paul Revere was laid to rest in Boston’s Granary Burial Ground cemetery. (To find the complete list of people who participated in the Boston Tea Party, visit this website:

 W. D. Cooper. Boston Tea Party in The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789. Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

The Boston Tea Party – As written by Samuel Cooper

The duty on tea gave great umbrage to the colonists generally and in Boston an association was formed in 1770 to drink no tea until the duty was repealed. This course was persisted in 1773 the arrival of 3 ships from England laden with tea caused great disgust.”

No little excitement prevailed among the inhabitants of Boston, on account of the arrival of the ships laden with tea from England. Every effort was made to send these ships back but without success and it was soon evident that the tea would be landed unless some active measures were adopted by the citizens to prevent it. A town meeting was called on the afternoon of December 16, 1773 to devise measures for getting rid of this annoyance. At this meeting, which was held in the Old South Meeting House corner of Main and Milk Street, Jno. Hancock presided.

A little before sundown an alarm was created among the assembled citizens by the cry of fire, which was suppose to be given by some of the British officers who had attended the meeting in citizen dress and had given the alarm for the purpose of breaking up the assembly. They had nearly effected this object when the town clerk, Wm. Cooper rose and in a loud voice told the citizens that there was no fire to be apprehended but the fire of the British and begged them to keep their plaices.

Immediately after a detach’t of about 20 men disguised as Indians was seen to approach in single file by the west door of the Church. They marched with silent steps down the isle and so passed by the south door brandishing their tommahaws [tomahawks] in that direction. The appearance of these men created some sensation. No one appeared to expect their arrival and the object of their visit seemed wholly inexplicable. On leaving the church, they proceeded in the same order in which they entered it, down Milk Street through that part of town which led to Gray’s and Tiletson’s wharves where the tea ships lay.

Arrived at the wharves they divided into three troops each with a leader gained possession of the ships quietly and proceeded to lighten them of their cargo by hoisting out the boxes and emptying their contents into the dock. No noise was heard except the occasional clink of the hatchet in opening the boxes and the whole business was performed with so much expedition that before 10 o’clock that night the entire cargo of the three vessels were deposited in the docks.

Many a wishful eye was directed to the piles of tea which lay in the docks and one poor fellow (5) who could not resist the temptation had filled the lining of his cloak with about a bushel of the plants. He was soon observed by the crowd and the process of lightening him of his burden was short. He was dragged a little distance on the wharf to a barrel and was soon furnished with a coat of tar and shavings.

The Shot Heard Around the World!”

The British reacted by declaring that Boston was under military control, which later resulted in a conflict when the British tried to take possession of gunpowder and weapons kept in Concord, twenty miles away from Boston, on April 19, 1775. The American volunteer army, which some sources say included Samuel Cooper, hurried to prevent the British from seizing the weapons after receiving warnings from Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott, and William Dawes (although British patrols captured all three, Prescott managed to escape and warn Concord. Dawes and Revere also escaped, but they never reached Concord.)

The fights in Lexington and Concord, also known as “The Shot Heard Around the World,” began the eight-year Revolutionary War. This war led to the colonies gaining freedom from Great Britain and establishing the United States.

The Battle of Lexington is depicted in a 1910 portrait by William Barnes Wollen—an image from Wikipedia.

Cooper’s Revolutionary War Record

During the war, Cooper participated in the fights at Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775), Germantown (October 4, 1777), Monmouth (June 28, 1778), Trenton (January 1777), and Brandywine (September 11, 1777).

Cooper was commissioned as a “second lieutenant in Crane’s artillery regiment on February 1, 1777; quartermaster 14th May 1778, lieutenant and adjutant in 1783. He was inspector of pot and pearl ashes in New York City and county from 1808 to 1830.1Francis S. Drake. Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to The American Colonies in the Year 1773, By the East Indian Tea Company. Now First Printed From the Original Manuscript. With an Introduction, Notes, and Biographical Notices of the Boston Tea Party. Boston. A. O. Crane. 1884. Pg. 54- 55.

After he stopped working in 1830, he relocated to Georgetown, D.C. A decade later; he was laid to rest in Christ Church Cemetery following his passing on August 19, 1840.

Maj Samuel Cooper. Photo by D. Heiby
to the memory of 
of the
Revolutionary Army
Who in early youth
At the First onset
Struck for Liberty
and continued to wield the sword
in the defence of his Country
Until Victory Crowned her arms

He fought at
Bunker-Hill, Trenton, Brandy-Wine
At German-Town and at Monmouth
and other sanguinary Fields.
As then a valiant soldier
So in afterlife, was he
an active and estimable Citizen
an upright man and a 
pious Christian

He was born 
in the State of Massachusetts,
He died 
in the state of Virginia
on the 19th of August A.D. 1840
At the age of 84 Years.
Lot 101:4

Cooper rests in Lot 101:4. Two stones mark his grave. One is the original stone, and the other is a newer stone. You can also find D. A. R. and S. A. R. markers at the site.

Cooper’s Son

Buried next to Major Cooper is his son, Samuel Cooper (born on June 12, 1798, and passed away on December 3, 1876). Samuel Cooper was a highly honored officer in the United States Army. In March 1861, he resigned from the army and was appointed Brigadier General, Adjutant, and Inspector General for the Confederate Army.

Samuel Cooper. Library of Congress.

In 1862, he was elevated to Full General, becoming the highest-ranking officer in the Confederate Army. He held this position above all others, including Robert E. Lee, until January 23, 1865. On that date, the Confederate Congress enacted legislation designating Lee as the General-in-Chief of the Confederate States’ armies. He directly answered to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. His final duty was to safeguard the official documents of the Confederate Army and hand them over to the United States Government after the war ended.

Cooper got married to Sarah Maria Mason, who was the daughter of General John Mason and the great-granddaughter of George Mason IV. They lived at Cameron, near Alexandria, and had three kids: Sarah Maria Cooper Wheaton, Major Samual Cooper Jr., and Virginia Mason Cooper Dawson. Sarah Maria Cooper Wheaton is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Major Samual Cooper Jr. in Christ Church, and Virginia Mason Cooper Dawson in Ivy Hill Cemetery. Cameron was destroyed during the construction of Fort Williams at the beginning of the American Civil War. The Union soldiers who occupied the site called it “Traitor’s Hill.” The fort’s magazine, located near 212 North Quaker Lane, was built using bricks from Cameron.

Cooper’s daughter Sarah married Frank Wheaton. He was born on May 8, 1833, and died on June 18, 1903. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on February 5th, 1857. Unfortunately, Sarah died shortly after giving birth to their only child, a daughter. Frank fought for the United States Army and supported the Northern states during the Civil War. Wheaton and Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, were named after him.

After the war, General Cooper returned to Alexandria and lived in the old caretaker’s cottage at Cameron until he passed away in 1876.

Adgt. Gen.
U.S.A. and C.S.A.
1798 – 1876
Lot 101:3 with footstone “S.C.”

Sources of Information

Drake, F. S. (1884). Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to The American Colonies in the Year 1773, By the East Indian Tea Company. Now First Printed From the Original Manuscript. With an Introduction, Notes, and Biographical Notices of the Boston Tea Party. A. O. Crane: Boston.

The Alexandria Association. (1956). Our Town 1749 – 1865. The Dietz Printing Company: At Gadsby’s Tavern Alexandria, Virginia.

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, VA (Volume 3). Family Line Publications: Westminster, Maryland.

Powell, M. G. (2000). The History of Old Alexandria, VA, from July 13, 1749 – May 24, 1861. Index by Pippenger, W. E. Willow Bend Books: Westminster, Maryland.

Kundahl, G. (2004). Alexandria Goes to War: Beyond Robert E. Lee. The University of Tennessee Press.

Daughters of the American Revolution. (2022). Genealogy Research. [Official Website]. Retrieved from the Daughters of the American Revolution website. Accessed 2022.

Newport News Daily Press. (2001, May 15). Article about General Samuel Cooper. p. 5. Accessed 2023.

Boston Tea Party Historical Society. (2022). Samuel Cooper [Record]. Retrieved from the Boston Tea Party Historical Society official website.

The City of Alexandria Archeology Department. (n.d.). Archaeological investigation report on 206 North Quaker Lane (44AX193). Retrieved from The City of Alexandria Archeology Department official website. [URL] The Report was accessed in 2022.

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    Francis S. Drake. Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to The American Colonies in the Year 1773, By the East Indian Tea Company. Now First Printed From the Original Manuscript. With an Introduction, Notes, and Biographical Notices of the Boston Tea Party. Boston. A. O. Crane. 1884. Pg. 54- 55.
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By David

As a public historian, I am dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep passion for bringing the past to life, I serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before this, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a blog focused on Alexandria's cemeteries, where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, reading my blog, or connecting with me on social media. It is my sincere pleasure to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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